Volunteers in heavy coats and work gloves lined up drum sets in Row 1, the Noah’s Ark Playsets in Row 2, and Monster Movers and Giant Loaders (with hard hats included) in Row 7.
Thursday was setup day at the Christmas Bureau at the fairgrounds and temperatures in the Ag Building were frigid. The heat couldn’t be turned on until the volunteers unloaded toys, tables, chairs, and computers and the trucks were driven out of the building.
The two women in charge of the toy inventory, Judy Thies and Janelle Kortlever, spent more than five hours checking their toy lists and dividing the toys into rows based on intended age groups.
The bureau opens Saturday at the Spokane County Fair & Expo Center. Volunteers expect to give the fixings of a merrier Christmas to more than 30,000 needy people before the charity closes on Dec. 21.
Donations to the Christmas Fund pay for the toys and grocery store vouchers. Donations totaling $5,500 bumped the fund to $90,982. Much more is needed and donations of all amounts are welcome.
Set-up of the bureau requires a lot of volunteers who are able to unload the semi-truck trailers and move hundreds of big boxes. Catholic Charities executive director Rob McCann picked up six volunteers at the House of Charity to help with the manual labor.
“This is the first time I’ve been here but I’m already having fun,” said Bryan Lilly, who spent the morning moving boxes with a hand truck. “I saw the sign-up at the House of Charity where I’m staying. This beats doing nothin’.”
Many of the volunteers are veterans of the Christmas Bureau.
Bonnie Atkinson, who spent Thursday organizing the toys, said this is her second year as a volunteer. Prior to that, she was a recipient, coming to the charity for help making Christmas a little brighter for her and her children.
“I’m real excited to be here,” Atkinson said. Last year she restocked the toy room. This year she has also volunteered to be a greeter, meeting the recipients as they enter the Ag Building.
“I also volunteered earlier this year helping the toy committee with the shopping,” she said.
The 200 volunteers scheduled to work at the bureau this year will have orientation and lunch today.
The computer system used to ensure each family gets just one food voucher of the appropriate amount will be tested, says bureau coordinator Theresa Dryden. By late afternoon, Turbo Trikes, Glam Girl Ultimate Cosmetics Sets, On-the-Go Strollers and hundreds of other toys will fill the toy rooms. Workers will unpack thousands of bags of candy and set up folding chairs in lines.
The fairgrounds gates will be unlocked at 7:30 Saturday morning. The bureau opens at 10.
Following are the most recent donations and their donors:
Country Homes Building Supply, of Spokane, donated $1,000.
Ronald and Shirley Schoenberger, of Liberty Lake, sent $775, part of a holiday ritual dating back 21 years. “Our original contribution was small, but within the range we were comfortable with,” they explained in an accompanying note. “With our first contribution, we made a commitment to increase our yearly contribution by 10 percent each succeeding year. We are sure the needs of those living in our community have increased and we hope all other contributors will increase their contributions this year. Your continued generosity and commitment to the citizens of our wonderful community makes this a better holiday season for thousands of people who might not otherwise receive a gift.”
Les and Lyn Wolff, of Mica, donated $800.
Diana and Rick Wilhite and Safeguard Business Printing sent $300 and a note: “As we have in years past, we take this opportunity to thank our many customers by supporting this wonderful cause.”
Jerome Keller, of Spokane, gave $250. An anonymous donor, also of Spokane, sent $250 and a note: “If everyone on earth shared to the extent of their capabilities, both effort and money, sadness and poverty could be eliminated. I want to thank those whose efforts make this gift season possible, and by so doing make it possible for me to give this gift.”
Donald Moore, of Spokane, donated $200, as did two anonymous donors, of Spokane.
The owner of Louise, a large black cat who was lost, donated $200 in honor of Christie Hinnen, who found the cat.Richard and Lucille Hallett, of Spokane, donated $165.
Phillip and Marilyn Sandberg, of Spokane, donated $100, as did Nels and Patricia Moller, John and Delores Skelton, and Lance and Joy Griffith, all of Spokane; John and Janet Gray, of Spokane Valley; Jeffrey and Theresa Utesch, of Veradale; and an anonymous donor, of Nine Mile Falls.
Virginia Besemer, of Spokane Valley, donated $100 in memory of her husband.
Gunhild Thomsen and Jean Jalufka, of Spokane, donated $75.
Leo and Mary Kay DiValentino, of Nine Mile Falls, donated $50, as did Donald and Myra White, of Spokane; and an anonymous donor, of Spokane.
Harriet Watkins, of Spokane, donated $50 in memory of her husband Zeke, and her son Mike.
Kris Spelman, of Spokane, donated $50 in memory of her great-aunt Elsie Altin and grandmother Violet Burgunder.
Jean Rabe, of Spokane, donated $25.
Roy Charlton, of Spokane, donated $10.